Friday, December 5, 2014

It's not black and white

I received an email from a guy who reads my blog saying that he has been waiting for my take on the events in Ferguson.  I had to double check to make sure it was sent to me, and it was.  I have been  silent on my thoughts about this because as sad as it sounds, I felt like I didn't have a place to say anything. I'm a middle class white woman in the Midwest who grew up in a somewhat sheltered and privileged upbringing. This entire issue of race doesn't directly relate to me so how can my opinion have any weight?

And then it was obvious to me, that I'm part of the problem.

It's Christmas time, I don't want to feel sad or uncomfortable. I need to finish my shopping and figure out where to put the Elf on the Shelf. How to keep my boy's belief in Santa alive with painstaking elaborate plans to send video messages to them.

What I'm really doing  is trying to avoid reality as well.  I don't want to admit to myself or to my boys that there is a serious problem in our country right now.  I know how I feel. I feel conflicted. Not on the issue as much as how the people I know feel about the issue. It is one thing to have a difference of opinion, but how can I associate with someone who believes that the action of killing someone go without some sort of punishment?

What I see, in just the hand full of cases where young men have been killed, is their mothers.
If that is all you can find in common with this situation then put yourself in her shoes. Imagine how she felt when she heard the news that her son was dead. It immediately makes it personal. As a mother I would support my child.  Regardless of what they do, I will love them.  I can say with 100% certainty that losing a child is equally painful whether your child died in an accident or was killed unlawfully. The bottom line is that this Christmas there will be one empty chair at their table and will remain empty.

Everyone should be able to agree that that is unfair.

 When my oldest son overheard me discussing it they asked what I was talking about.  I explained in the most simple terms that a young man had lost his life because he was shot. To the question of why, I admitted that I just don't know.

This isn't a black and white issue in the sense that you can offer an explanation.  I said all we can do is pray. Pray for their families.  All of them.  We can't forget that the people who shot these young men have mothers and fathers too.  Who, like me stand behind their child even if they don't agree with their actions.

All I can think to do in moving forward is teach compassion.  My boys do not see race. At least not yet. My seven year old's two best friends are black.  When I asked him to describe Aaron, he said he was about as tall as him, he likes the color green and his favorite ninja turtle is Rafael. Oh, and that he makes him laugh.  In his description, the color of his skin doesn't even come up.  He is basing their  friendship on how he makes him feel and all the things they have in common. Not the one thing they don't.

It makes me feel sorrowful that as we are approached 2015 and we still have conflict that began long before our great grandparents were born. I realize that it's just not that simple.  But I will be doing a disservice to my children if I let it continue down the line.  I want to move forward with compassion and optimism that our generation will take the responsibility to teach the next generation about equality and peace.

And I will also say a prayer for the heartbreaking number of chairs that will be empty at the Christmas dinner table.

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